A Stem Cell Patch Could Heal Hearts Damaged By Cardiac Arrest
U.K. Researchers are using stem cells to develop a "patch" that could help mend diseased and damaged hearts, eliminating the need for a transplant.
The Beat Goes On
The human body has an extraordinary capacity to heal itself: livers can regenerate when damaged, one kidney can learn to do the job of two, and our skin is constantly working to protect us from scratches and cuts that could expose us to harmful pathogens.
One of our most vital organs, however, can’t heal quite so well. When our hearts are damaged — by disease or injury — the tissue can’t regenerate very well, or very fast. After a major heart attack, for instance, billions of heart muscle cells may be lost forever. This loss weakens the heart and often ends up leading to conditions like congestive heart failure, or scar tissue build-up, which can be fatal.
Currently, the only option for a patient with a damaged or diseased heart is receiving a heart transplant. Donor hearts have to come from people who had healthy hearts before they died — which usually means patients who were fairly young and died in accidents, or from injuries or illnesses that didn’t affect their heart. Patients who are waiting for a donor match to receive a transplant can be waiting a very long time.
At the time of publication, there were nearly 4,000 people in the U.S. waiting for a heart, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Some of them will die on the waitlist before a match can be found.
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